Forum Spin Doctor
— New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush insisted Friday he and his family have done nothing wrong, responding to allegations that they accepted gifts, money and other benefits worth more than $100,000 from two marketing agents during his career at Southern California.
"I'm not worried about any of these allegations or anything like that, because I know what the truth is, like I said from day one," Bush said after a Saints practice. "Once the smoke clears, everybody's going to see we did nothing wrong."
Yahoo.com reported Thursday that Michael Michaels, a marketing agency investor who wanted to represent the Heisman Trophy winner, and current Bush marketing agent Mike Ornstein supplied Bush and his family with gifts while he was still at USC.
Each hoped to represent Bush once he left school. Bush eventually chose Ornstein, which caused a falling out between Michaels and Bush's family.
Michaels' attorney, Brian Watkins, said his client was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment, but Watkins claimed the Yahoo.com report was "very accurate."
"We've known what (Bush) was doing. This article proves fraud on his part and his family's part. He never intended to go forward with my clients. He was always taking money from Mike Ornstein and then representing with my clients that he was going to go forward with this business venture," Watkins said, referring to Michaels' company, New Era.
"It was fine for him to go with the other venture, but his job was to notify my clients that he was on the payroll with Ornstein. But he said the opposite. He continued to do that and took money from my client."
Neither Ornstein nor Bush's attorney, David Cornwell, returned phone messages from The Associated Press left late Thursday and Friday.
The NCAA prohibits student-athletes and their families from receiving extra benefits from agents or their representatives. Any improper benefits could lead to NCAA sanctions against USC and retroactively cost Bush his college eligibility and Heisman Trophy.
On Friday, Bush responded to questions about the report much the same as he did when the allegations of improper benefits first were reported earlier this year.
"Obviously it does affect you just because it is out there," Bush said. "But at the same time, I know there's nothing to worry about. It makes you want to go out there right away and tell your side of the story. Show everybody the facts, the truth. But you can't do that. That wouldn't be the right way to do it."
Yahoo.com reported earlier this year that Bush's mother and stepfather lived rent free last year in a house in the San Diego area owned by Michaels. He later said the family promised to repay him the $54,000 in rent once Bush went pro.
Bush, the second overall pick in the NFL draft last April, said he has been in touch with USC officials.
"I told them the same thing, `Don't worry about anything,'" he said. "If there was something to worry about, than I would tell you. But there's nothing to worry about."
Yahoo's latest report was based on an eight-month investigation that cited documents and interviews with on-the-record sources close to the situation. It lists several instances in which Bush and his family appear to have received financial benefits.
The NCAA and Pac-10 are investigating whether rules were broken when Bush's family lived in the home owned by Michaels.
USC counsel Kelly Bendell said the school is cooperating but "cannot comment on any matter that is the subject of an ongoing NCAA and Pac-10 investigation."
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said via e-mail Friday from Indianapolis that it's generally NCAA policy not to comment on investigations, but added: "Now that certain individuals have spoken publicly, we hope they will now speak with the NCAA."
In Walnut Creek, Calif., Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said that to his knowledge, the conference did not have information regarding Yahoo's latest report.
"We will make inquiries as part of our investigation of this matter," he said. "It's something we're continuing to look at to see if there are future developments."
He said there was no timeline for the Pac-10's investigation.
"It's impossible to say because of threats of litigation, which we understand have been exchanged among the parties," he said. "Therefore, the presence of legal counsel advising the parties to not discuss the situation makes it impossible to say when an investigation might be completed."
In New Orleans, Saints wide receiver Joe Horn defended his teammate.
"I don't think Reggie did that, but if he did, I would have done it, too," Horn said. "And guess what? Eighty percent of the college athletes that don't have much when they're in college get money, too. So they should ban all of them. They should go after everybody. Don't just go after Reggie because he's Reggie Bush."